Entropy vs. The Weekly Swamp-Out
Even the best “stay organized” intentions often get overwhelmed in the daily crush. We get organized, then a few days later it’s out of control again, and we think “I just can’t stay organized.” And you’re right. For most of us, being organized is a constant battle against “entropy,” the thermodynamic principle which states that everything tends to move from order toward chaos. So, rather than feeling defeated, step back and remember that it’s just one of the laws of the universe, and that getting organized stuff isn’t a one-time thing but a regular process. So schedule a regular weekly “get me organized” time with your assistant to sort through the piles and get them onto the right place on your priority or delegation list or into the file. Encourage your assistant to be aggressive in pulling straightforward tasks away from you, helping you write up delegation forms, make decisions on appropriate actions, etc. Use the organizing talents of your assistant by making them an active partner in staying organized, not simply a passive work receiver.
The Secret to Faster, Better Delegation: The “Plus Fifteen”
Find yourself running from meeting to call to meeting? Here’s a trick that will help you delegate more effectively and take better care of clients. Direct your assistant to schedule client meetings or calls 15 minutes longer than they are expected to run. After the meeting ends, stay focused: Use the extra time to think through the matter, write notes, and (most importantly) write up delegation sheets. Afterwards, hand the delegation sheets to your assistant for distribution. The result: delegated work is in play almost immediately, rather than later when you re-focus on it. (Sample Delegation Sheet available – request form TP11)
New Staff Member? The Perfect Opportunity to Systemize
How can you make your practice run more efficiently and profitably? By “externalizing” all the personal staff knowledge (customs) into written procedures, checklists and documentation (systems). And the perfect opportunity is with a new team member. You or another team member does a “brain dump” on a procedure, for instance, new file opening. The new staffer takes notes, and turns them into checklists, procedures sheets or boilerplate documents for your review and refinement. Next time you bring on a new team member or need overflow support, their learning curve will be reduced from months to minutes.
The Other “IN” Baskets
Save time and increase efficiency by moving beyond traditional “IN” and “OUT” baskets:
Efficient: Three IN’s at least: URGENT, IMPORTANT and OPTIONAL.
More efficient: two more: DRAFTS FOR REVIEW, and FINALS FOR SIGNATURE.
Overdrive: have your assistant place Post-It Notes on each with a “DUE BY” date and re-arrange daily in date order so nothing gets missed.
BIG tip: to work more efficiently, get all the baskets OUT OF YOUR LINE OF SIGHT so they’re not a constant source of mental distraction.
Watch Out for Those E-Mail Rabbit Trails
An e-mail often initiates a “rabbit-trail,” where one item leads to another and another, until you’re six steps away from your original task. As a result, reading all your e-mail can consume your day. Take control of your e-mail time by setting aside specific times for reading and responding to messages, and writing down the task that needs to be done instead of doing them. Then when you’ve finished your e-mails, you can launch into the tasks. Better yet, delegate them to your team.